Thursday, June 30, 2011

Garden Updates and Simple Lives Thursday #50

Happy Thursday everybody! This one is especially good for a few reasons, the first of which is the exciting progress toward the long weekend. I'm double eready for Friday because July 4th weekend in Iowa City means one thing: Jazz Fest. Once again, bands will fill the streets with every style of jazz for the whole weekend, and food vendors will sell $4 lemonades-of-desperation and foods on sticks. The weekends in summer always bring out the babies and dogs of Iowa City, and Jazz Fest brings out the most closeted of dancers. I'll be downtown soaking up the best of it and will do my best to take some pictures to share with you.
The other reason this Thursday is so exciting is the fact that this marks our 50th week hosting Simple Lives Thursday. Almost a year ago, Diana asked me if I'd be interested in hosting a weekly blog hop that asks posters to share their tips for living a more frugal lifestyle. The contributors have wowed us each week, and I have learned so much from them. To celebrate you all, we're planning some exciting stuff for our big anniversary, including a Twitter chat and some great giveaways. Stay tuned for more details, but in the mean time, you can start following us on Twitter:

And of course, you should submit to this week's hop. First I'm going to share some photos from my garden and the featured posts from last week, and the linky for this week will appear after the jump.

A little while ago, I showed you how to plant tomatoes in a 5 gallon bucket. I thought you might like to see how ours have come along since then. They're doing quite well! We had far too much rain this spring but things have dried up and these plants are all very happy and heathy.

This tomatillo is doing well, and so are the little lettuce seedlings below it.  
Somebody has been eating the kale.  It's some kind of bug, as you can tell by the pattern on the leaves.  I'm considering a soap spray.  Any experiences?
But the lettuce is still thriving.
The green beans are climbing high.
 And the so are the cucmbers.
All of a sudden the raspberries are in!  I picked a handful, which I mentioned on my facebook page, and got approximately one mosquito bite for each berry.  It was worth it.  Tonight I'm going out in long sleeves covered in Badger Balm, despite the fact that it's around 98 and humid out there.
Finally, we've got a little purslane doing its thing near the edge of the back bed.  I wrote a bit about foraging before, which you can read here.
Now that you've seen what my garden has been up to, check out last week's featured posts!

Featured Posts from Last Week's Submissions
The posts from last week that really caught our eyes are... (thanks everyone for the great submissions, as always!)

1. A Pallet Turned Herb Garden With Video by Seattle Seedling.
So simple and great for those who have small backyards and it's another way to repurpose a pallet.

2. For the Love of Coriander by Urban Homestead South Africa.
Wendy, blogging from South Africa, shares her love of coriander-cilantro along with a delicious peanut butter chicken dish.

3. Sprouting by Simply Loving Home.
We love this idea especially for micro-greens during the Winter time.

4. GrowinKitchen At Bandung Berkebun by GrowinKitchen.
A lack of yard didn’t defeat this determined gardener. She found a community garden where she could pursue her dream of a kitchen garden.
5. Chamomile For Swelling by Home Shalom.
This blogger demonstrates the medicinal properties of chamomile. Quite Amazing!!

This week's linky is behind the jump, so click:

Meatless Monday: Spring Slaw with Radishes, Fennel, Asparagus, and Jicama, IC Arts Fest, and How to Grow Tomatoes in a Bucket

Greetings everybody!  It's Monday and I have a great (vegan!) refreshing spring recipe to share with you, but first I'd like to show you how to grow a tomato plant, even if you don't have a garden, by using a bucket! Container gardens are great if you're just starting your gardening adventure, or if you don't have much space to dedicate to growing food.  Tomatoes are well suited to growing in containers, and five gallon buckets are easy to find, cheap, and work perfectly for the purpose.  We got ours on Craigslist, but you could also look for them at local businesses.  You can also buy them at places like Home Depot. Begin by drilling holes every four or five inches around the bottom of the bucket. DSC02111Do the same around the bottom. DSC02081 Fill the bottom with a layer of rocks.  The biggest drawback of container gardening is drainage, which is essential for strong plants.  The rocks and holes help water drain easily so your plant doesn't get too much. DSC02115 Fill them with potting soil or top soil and add your seedlings.  Put them anywhere that gets good consistent sunlight, and always water at the base of the plants, not at the leaves.  Sit back and look proud.  (Raz has it down.) Cropped We put a few lettuce seedlings around the base of the tomatoes, hoping they'll grow to harvest before the tomatoes get too big.  We'll see! DSC02168 Since it's been so darn hot recently (it's June 6th and 99 degrees right now. Insane.) I've really been missing the adult beverages that pregnancy is keeping from me, so I've been indulging in some drinks that I would otherwise not bother with.  When I saw this Coke made with sugar at the Mexican grocery store, I had to give in. I'm avoiding high fructose corn syrup even more seriously now that I've got a little one attached to me because it has been found to contain mercury. So, I decided on a super hot day last week to make a Coke float. I don't get to use these icy mugs for beer anymore, but they're perfect for keeping cold drinks cool longer. DSC02087Some good vanilla ice cream DSC02088Mmmmmmm fizzy. DSC02092There's something delicious about the foam in a float.  (There's my stainless straw) DSC02094Don't let his posture fool you, Raz was so jealous. DSC02099 We've been making our way to the farmer's market as much as we can, though I have to say there has been a real paucity of actual produce these days.  I'm very much looking forward to the next few weeks are more things slowly come in.  This heat and drier weather should help us catch up after such a wet spring. We almost always begin our market tours at Cafe del Sol coffee, iced these days.  I heard the owner telling a customer that they are happy to sell customers green beans directly so they may roast their own, which is something I've always wanted to try. DSC02119I love seeing cyclists use their bikes when others might think they need a car.  I plan to continue biking through this pregnancy as long as possible, and appreciate not having to get into the car any time I want to run an errand. DSC02123After we finished up at market, we headed downtown to explore the Iowa City Arts Fest.  Iowa City holds the Summer of the Arts, which is filled with all kinds of events including music, vendors, and food.  There were tents lined up Washington St. DSC02126 And a big stage on Linn St. DSC02148 I held my pocketbook closed, in spite of seeing a lot of things I wanted.  I love poppies, so this one was tough to resist. DSC02127Lots of lawn sculptures, and some in very bright colors. DSC02131Many painters. DSC02133Local pottery. DSC02134From DSC02137Frescos. DSC02139From DSC02140Handbound books. DSC02141We caved and bought a little accordion album for the baby.

More great colors.

DSC02143 Little ones. DSC02146 From Bekah AshDSC02145We managed to get away from the fest having bought just the book and headed home to do some gardening and cooking.  The raspberries are starting to come in in the backyard. DSC02103Then we went over to Billy's and check out the plots.  He's got a little urban community farm going here! DSC02235Our plot, pre weeding.  Everything looks good so far. DSC02237 We harvested some radishes and headed home to cook. DSC02239 The goal for this recipe was to make something that didn't require any heating, since the kitchen was so hot, and to end up with something fresh and crunchy to go well with a BBQ.  The dressing is light and herby, and you can substitute any fresh herbs you have on hand.  The vegetables meld together well and provide a simple yet sophisticated side dish for your next gathering.

Spring Slaw with Radishes, Fennel, Asparagus, and Jicama with a Lime Herb Vinaigrette

(raw and vegan. serves 6 as a side)


1/2 medium jicama

6-8 radishes

6-8 spears asparagus

1 small fennel bulb


2 tbsp. vegenaise (or sub your favorite mayo)

1 tbsp. stone ground mustard

handful of fresh chives

5-6 basil leaves

1-2 tbsp. fresh rosemary

a handful of fennel fronds

juice of 1/2 lime

1/4-1/3 c. olive oil

salt and pepper

Prep your veggies.  Scrub the radishes well and remove the stems and greens.  (Use the greens for radish leaf pesto!) DSC02262Slice the radishes in half, and then in half again.  Then, cut into matchsticks.DSC02264Cut the fennel fronds (the green parts) and reserve them for the vinaigrette.

DSC02258Slice the bulb in half and remove the core.

DSC02275Thinly slice the fennel.

DSC02277Next prep the jicama.

DSC02259Slice it in half.

DSC02267Peel it well.  Getting the brown outside off isn't enough, you have to be sure to remove this stringy part.  See?


DSC02269Cut into big slices, then in half, and then in matchsticks.

DSC02274Prep the asparagus.

DSC02263Slice into 3 inch pieces, then in half, and then in half again. DSC02266All ready to dress.

DSC02287In the bottom of a big bowl, make your vinaigrette.  Start with your herbs.  DSC02279Combine with the mustard and mayo.  Then add the lime juice. DSC02282Whisk this well.  DSC02284Then slowly whisk in the olive oil until it looks like enough to coat your vegetables.  Add salt and pepper and taste.  You might need to add more salt, or extra lime.  We love this with lots of fresh black pepper.DSC02285Toss the veggies and top with a little extra fronds.   DSC02291

This slaw was perfect with all kinds of grilled food, including some baked beans that I'm going to share with you next.  For your next get together, consider making this because it's easy, refreshing, and uses lots of produce that's at its best right now.

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